Importation and Certification FAQ’s
Examples of Imported Vehicles into the United States
- Importing a Nissan Skyline.
- Importing a Mercedes Smart Car.
I. Importing a Nissan Skyline.
The Nissan Skyline was not originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS. Such a vehicle that is less than 25 years old can only be lawfully imported into the U.S. if (1) it is determined eligible for importation by NHTSA and (2) it is imported by an RI or by a person who has a contract with an RI to bring the vehicle into compliance with all applicable FMVSS within 120 days of entry.
Import eligibility decisions are made on a make, model, and model year basis. NHTSA has determined that the R33 Model Nissan GTS and GTR ("Skyline") passenger cars manufactured between January 1, 1996 and June 30, 1998 are eligible for importation and has assigned vehicle eligibility number VCP-32 to those vehicles. (The import eligibility number is to be entered on the HS-7 Declaration form that is to be given to Customs at the time of entry, and alerts Customs that the vehicle may be lawfully
imported by an RI or by a person who has a contract with an RI, even though the vehicle is not certified by its manufacturer as complying with all applicable FMVSS.)
To learn the modifications the petitioner started were needed to conform Nissan Skyline vehicles to the FMVSS, you should go to the Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) website at http://www.regulations.gov/ and access docket number “NHTSA-2005-22654” by following the online instructions for accessing the dockets available at that web site. You should note that the petition sought import eligibility for 1990-1999 Nissan GTS and GTR "Skyline" passenger cars. After granting the petition, the agency learned that the modifications identified in the petition were not sufficient to conform certain model and model year vehicles that were covered by the petition. The agency therefore partially rescinded its grant of eligibility, leaving only R33 model Nissan GTS and GTR passenger cars manufactured between January 1,
1996 and June 30, 1998 eligible for importation.
A list of RIs can be found on our website at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import. You should consult the importers on that list to see whether any are willing to conform the vehicle that you seek to import to all applicable safety and bumper standards, and if so, what they would charge for that work.
If you decide to import the vehicle, one potential complicating factor is that the RI who
petitioned NHTSA to determine the Nissan Skyline eligible for importation requested, and was granted, confidentiality with respect to the modifications needed to conform to the vehicle to certain of the standards. As a consequence, that importer (J.K. Technologies, LLC of Baltimore, Maryland) has claimed a proprietary interest in the modifications covered by the confidentiality grant. This does not preclude other RIs from attempting to modify the vehicle. However, should those importers not gain access to the modifications covered by the grant confidentiality, they will have to demonstrate to the agency, at the time they submit a conformity certification package for a Skyline, that they have made equivalent modifications that permit the vehicle to comply with the standards covered by the confidentiality grant.
Please note that we determined the vehicle eligible for importation based on its capability of being modified to comply with all applicable standards. We did not approve J.K. Technologies,
LLC as the "exclusive" importer of the vehicle. As previously indicated, any other RI is free to import the vehicle, but will have to demonstrate in the conformity package submitted to the agency to obtain release of the conformance bond furnished at the time of importation that the vehicle has been brought into conformity with all applicable standards, including those covered by the
grant of confidentiality to J.K. Technologies, LLC.
You should note that if you were to import the vehicle, the necessary modifications would have to be made by an RI, and that importer would have to certify to us that the vehicle conforms to all applicable FMVSS in effect on its date of manufacture before the vehicle could be released to be licensed or registered for on-road use. One of the reasons that an RI is required to import and modify a vehicle that was not originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS is because the RI stands in the stead of the vehicle's original manufacturer to provide the vehicle's owner with notification and remedy in the event that the vehicle is determined to contain a safety-related defect or a noncompliance with an applicable safety standard. Because the original manufacturer would
not be responsible for the vehicle being in the U.S., it would have no legal obligation to perform this import safety responsibility.
Questions regarding modifications to conform the vehicle to applicable emissions standards
should be directed to the EPA.
II. Importing a Mercedes Smart Car.
A vehicle that was not originally manufactured to conform to all applicable
FMVSS cannot be lawfully imported into the U.S. unless it is first determined by
NHTSA to be eligible for importation. The agency makes these decisions on the
basis of petitions from. These are business entities that are specifically
approved by NHTSA to import nonconforming vehicles and to perform the necessary
modifications on those vehicles so that they conform to all applicable FMVSS.
The petitions must specify that the vehicle is substantially similar to a
U.S.-certified vehicle, or that the vehicle has safety features that comply
with, or are capable of being altered to comply with, the FMVSS based on
destructive test information or other evidence the agency deems adequate.
Import eligibility decisions are made on a make, model, and model year basis.
In early 2004, we granted import eligibility to the 2003-2004 glass top and
convertible versions of the Passion model Smart Car, and to the 2002-2004
Passion, Pulse, and Pure model Smart Cars. More recently, the agency granted
import eligibility to the 2005 and 2006 Smart Car Coupe and Cabriolet (including
Passion, Pulse, and Pure trim levels), and to the 2007 version of those vehicles
manufactured before September 1, 2006. As a result of these decisions, any of
the model and model year vehicles identified above can be imported by an RI or
by a person who has a contract with an RI to bring the vehicle into conformity
with all applicable FMVSS. A list of RIs that are currently in active status can
be found on our website at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import.
You might wish to contact one or more of the RIs on that list to learn the cost
of modifying one of these vehicles so that it conforms to all applicable FMVSS.
We have made a blanket import eligibility decision that covers all
Canadian-certified passenger cars manufactured on or after September 1, 2002,
that, as originally manufactured, are equipped with an automatic restraint
system that complies with our occupant crash protection standard and that also
were originally manufactured to comply with other specified standards. Because
we have been advised by the Smart Car's manufacturer that Canadian-certified
Smart Cars manufactured before October 30, 2007 do not meet one or more of the
specified standards, those vehicles can only be lawfully imported if they have
been determined eligible for importation on a separate make, model, and model
year basis. The manufacturer informed us that Canadian-certified Smart Cars
manufactured on or after October 30, 2007 are originally manufactured to meet
all the specified standards. Canadian-certified Smart Cars manufactured on or
after that date can therefore be imported under the blanket import eligibility
decision that covers all Canadian-certified passenger cars.
Questions regarding modifications to conform the vehicle to applicable
emissions standards should be directed to the EPA.